First hur­dle cleared, now they must work on the big ob­sta­cles

Bonus-point win against Fiji was the ideal start, but Eng­land’s per­for­mance has given the coaches plenty to think about be­fore fac­ing Wales

The Daily Telegraph - Rugby World Cup - - Sport Rugby World Cup 2015 - SIR IAN McGEECHAN

Eng­land will be de­lighted with the out­come of the Fiji match. Not with the per­for­mance, nec­es­sar­ily, but cer­tainly with the re­sult; with the fact that they put a tricky team away and got the bonus point in the end.

The stut­ter­ing na­ture of their play will also en­sure that no com­pla­cency creeps in, which is no bad thing. It is some­thing to build on. Eng­land will cer­tainly have to raise their game con­sid­er­ably to beat Wales next Satur­day; the scrum, the line-out, the tempo and ur­gency of their at­tack, and most of all their ac­cu­racy at the break­down needs ad­dress­ing.

But Stu­art Lan­caster will be de­lighted to have come away from the match with a win and a bonus point. And with the im­pact made by his bench. You need a strong 23-man match-day squad to win a World Cup and Eng­land just showed that they have one.

TMO needs watch­ing

The use of the Tele­vi­sion Match Of­fi­cial was clearly a ma­jor talk­ing point of a game that fin­ished al­most two hours af­ter it started. It was ob­vi­ous that the TMO had been in­structed to take a look at any­thing se­ri­ous dur­ing the game, to take a more ac­tive role, and the reg­u­lar breaks in play frus­trated fans, with the first half tak­ing more than 50 min­utes to com­plete.

I think it is too early to draw any con­crete con­clu­sions. We need to wait un­til the end of the first week to see how other games pan out. But it is fair to say that World Rugby needs to think very care­fully about how the TMO op­er­ates, be­cause the role of the ref­eree, and the re­spect he is af­forded, is ab­so­lutely vi­tal to the suc­cess of rugby union. And I think the TMO risks un­der­min­ing him.

It is very im­por­tant that the ref­eree re­mains the sole ar­biter in rugby. If he has made a de­ci­sion, or cho­sen not to make one, I do not want to see the TMO over­rule him. Leave it, even if it is wrong.

The en­cour­ag­ing thing for me was that the one yel­low card Jaco Peyper brought out – to Fiji’s scrum-half Nikola Matawalu in the in­ci­dent that yielded Eng­land a penalty try in the first half – was not a TMO de­ci­sion. Peyper backed his own judg­ment and was not drawn into hand­ing out yel­lows on the ba­sis of the TMO.

There were nu­mer­ous mo­ments when I thought he might reach for the card, but he showed com­mon sense in a highly charged open­ing match.

Re­gard­ing the tackle on Jonny May in the first half, I thought the Eng­land winger ac­tu­ally dipped early go­ing into con­tact. Tom Wood’s arm around the throat in the sec­ond half was a close call but again the right one.

Fiji are a threat

Both Eng­land and Fiji were ner­vous in the first 15-20 min­utes. There were a lot of er­rors from both teams and not much con­ti­nu­ity. But Fiji then upped their game; they were the more di­rect team in the first half and their scrum was a rev­e­la­tion.

I thought Matawalu’s dis­al­lowed try was su­perbly ex­e­cuted. Fiji’s score from the cross-field kick was also per­fectly done and I sus­pect it is some­thing we are likely to see a lot of dur­ing this World Cup, par­tic­u­larly from teams with big wingers such as Ne­mani Nadolo.

Eng­land’s bro­ken break­down

If Eng­land play in front of the Wales de­fence as they did in the first half, then Wales will make them pay. Fiji’s work at the break­down was good but Wales have an ab­so­lutely world-class back row. Shaun Ed­wards, the Wales de­fence coach, will get them play­ing with very fast line speed. Eng­land must play on the front foot, with more ur­gency and tempo than they showed against Fiji. Re­mem­ber, it was the power run­ning of Eng­land’s for­wards that put Wales on the back foot dur­ing their win in Cardiff in the Six Na­tions.

Far­rell should start

Ben Youngs and Ge­orge Ford did not ac­cel­er­ate the game. There was no real tempo un­til the last 10-15 min­utes when the re­place­ments came on.

Youngs was back to tak­ing lit­tle half steps. Ford could not get his backs or his for­wards at­tack­ing with any real ur­gency. The re­sult was that Eng­land at­tacked across the pitch in front of Fiji’s de­fence. They ob­vi­ously talked about this at half-time be­cause Eng­land’s first at­tack in the sec­ond half saw some phase play at­tacks off nine and 10 but ei­ther there was not enough of it, or the moves broke down be­cause of er­rors.

I would start Owen Far­rell against Wales. I would have started him against Fiji, too, to be hon­est. Ford is a bril­liant fly-half but he is bet­ter against tir­ing de­fences. Far­rell’s game man­age­ment is stronger. In the last 15 min­utes, af­ter he came on, Eng­land sud­denly went far more di­rect. Far­rell put his strike run­ners straight at de­fend­ers and they off­loaded well, hit the break­down at speed and the whole thing clicked. Mike Brown got more con­sis­tently into the game. Sam Burgess at­tacked the gain line. And the for­wards were able to at­tack the break­down at speed. That in turn took away Fiji’s line speed.

Now, how much of that was down to Fiji tir­ing to­wards the end of the match, and how much to Eng­land’s re­place­ments chang­ing the tempo of the game, is a moot point. Ei­ther way it worked. Fiji could not live with Eng­land’s tempo and of­fload­ing, the con­stant chang­ing of the point of con­tact, and that led to two late tries through Brown and Billy Vu­nipola.

Eng­land set bench­mark

All the re­place­ments had a pos­i­tive im­pact. Kieran Brookes came on for Dan Cole and Eng­land pro­duced a re­ally solid first scrum while he was on, which was a huge psy­cho­log­i­cal boost at that point in the game. Joe Launch­bury teamed up with Court­ney Lawes and their suc­ces­sive tack­les on the out­side chan­nel pre­vented what could well have been a Fiji score.

I ex­pected Richard Wigglesworth to come on and play his usual kick­ing game but he made Eng­land more di­rect as well; he upped the tempo, pass­ing im­me­di­ately rather than tak­ing one or two lit­tle steps, as Youngs had been do­ing. Far­rell, Burgess, Billy Vu­nipola. All of them made a dif­fer­ence.

Heat on Wales and Aus­tralia

Eng­land’s bonus-point win has al­ready put the pres­sure on Wales and Aus­tralia, there is no doubt about that. They will have watched and will know they are in for a tough game, es­pe­cially if they are to score four tries.

This pool could be de­cided by points dif­fer­ence but Wales must not go out at the Mil­len­nium Sta­dium to­day with the in­ten­tion of scor­ing 100 points against Uruguay. They must do the ba­sics right, build pres­sure, let their tac­ti­cal pat­terns dic­tate the game and the score­board will take care of it­self.

Be­yond that, it will be in­ter­est­ing to see how Liam Wil­liams and Sam­son Lee go on their re­turn from in­jury, and how Sam War­bur­ton and Justin Tipuric play to­gether.

The op­tion of pair­ing them is a big plus for War­ren Gat­land as it al­lows Wales to play a slightly dif­fer­ent sys­tem with two world-class back row play­ers. It is a lux­ury.

Ford is a bril­liant fly-half but he is bet­ter against tir­ing de­fences. Far­rell is a bet­ter game man­ager

Much to prove: Ge­orge Ford was found want­ing against Fiji

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